Hurricane Matthew, one of largest storms to strike the United States in over a decade, ravaged the Southeastern parts of the American mainland, bringing torrential rains and dangerous wind with it. Major hurricanes and other weather events often lead to thousands of flight cancelations and have a lingering affect on travel in the region. It will be weeks or months before the full impact of Hurricane Matthew is understood, but here's what is known so far:
Even as the storm churned miles off the coast of Southern Florida, it was widely reported that thousands of flights had been canceled. Major travel hubs such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach were completely shut down due to Hurricane Matthew. Sustained winds of 35 miles per hour can be enough to cancel a flight, and Hurricane Matthew struck the Southern U.S. with wind speeds reaching 140 mph or more.
Travelers Today stated that an area spanning hundreds of miles from Miami north to the Carolinas saw a complete suspension of air travel for several days.1 As millions were evacuated, tourists and visitors to the region were left stranded. Even train services throughout the region were paused.
Damage to infrastructure
Strong winds, swelling ocean surges and powerful rain can cause serious harm to roads, bridges, buildings and other pieces of infrastructure. As a result, the impact of a storm like Hurricane Matthew can linger for weeks or months. This means that even after air travel has resumed, visitors may struggle to reach destinations. Entire roadways may be washed away, creating a dangerous and expensive situation. Power lines must be cleared, bridges will be inspected and, in some instances, entire stretches of road may need to be rebuilt.
Hurricane Matthew is no longer a threat to the region, but it will take time for the area to recover. The Tampa Bay Times reported that even as the storm was still bearing down on Georgia and the Carolinas, millions of dollars in insurance claims had already been reported.2 This number is likely to grow significantly. Hurricane Sandy in 2012 logged $20 billion in property damage while Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused an estimated $40 billion in insured property losses.
The problem is, even if personal loses are recuperated, the impact on communities and entire towns can linger and lead to problems. All told, about a third of the economic toll of a storm is attributed to lost opportunity. In the short term, immediate damage like losing power and broken windows keeps hotels and other attractions closed. Weeks and months later, however, expensive projects and larger renovations can stifle tourism.
In a region known for relaxing beaches and family adventure, this can be catastrophic. Government officials and community organizations will need to work to address to most pressing issues affecting human health, but over time, recovery efforts will hone in on supporting the tourism sector and making travel to the region easy and enjoyable.
Contact your travel insurance provider for further assistance.
The information contained here is provided by Brafton. AIG Travel assumes no responsibility for the use, accuracy, or interpretation of the information contained herein.